Joe Jordan defended his qualifications Wednesday to be the next administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. But the concerns may be less about Jordan and more about the shoes he has to fill.
Jordan, who currently is a senior adviser to Jeff Zients, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, would replace Dan Gordon, who spent more than 20 years in federal procurement. Jordan also has less experience than the previous five OFPP administrators.
“It’s crucial that the administrator has a strong knowledge of and experience with the federal procurement system, and the leader of the office must also have credibility with a broad range of stakeholders and having followed procurement issues for decades, I know how challenging this position is,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I’ve also personally known the last five or even more OFPP administrators. Some senators have raised questions about whether or not you have sufficient experience for this job.”
Jordan said he recognizes Gordon and the others before him brought a wealth of experience to the job.
“Why do I think I have the appropriate qualifications and experience for this job especially at this time which is particularly crucial given all the forces being brought to bear in the acquisition system? My experiences in the private sector and the public sector make me uniquely qualified for the administrator this position right now,” he said. “In the private sector, I worked with various companies, state governments and other entities on procurement and supply chain management issues, specifically on things like strategic sourcing and other ways to buy smarter and use data to drive analytics to lower costs and improve value. That’s a big element I think I can bring to bear here.”
Jordan said he also oversaw small-business contracting for the government while at SBA and saw almost $100 billion in prime contracts go to small firms. He also led a team of several hundred policy and contracting experts.
“An amalgamation of all those experiences lends itself quite well to the administrator of OFPP position at this time,” he said.
Collins said she is not one of those senators doubting his qualifications.
President Barack Obama nominated Jordan in February to replace Gordon. Gordon retired to become the associate dean of the George Washington School of Law in December.
Beyond laying out his qualifications, Jordan detailed his priorities as administrator. They focus on three specific areas:
Ensure agencies are buying smarter by analyzing data to help develop and implement policies. Plus, increase the use of strategic sourcing to better take advantage of the government’s buying power. “We must accelerate the application of lessons learned from these experiences and augment them with private-sector best practices so that agencies may increase savings for many of their other goods and services,” Jordan said.
Ensure agencies are doing business only with “responsible parties with appropriate ethics and business integrity,” and increase prime and subcontracts to small and disadvantaged businesses. “We must redouble our effort to document and share past performance information so the intended benefit of motivating and rewarding good performance is fully realized,” Jordan said. “Just as it is important to reward high performing businesses, it’s also important to make sure taxpayers dollars are not put at risk in the hands of contractors who are not responsible sources. Our agencies must be prepared to give appropriate consideration to suspension and debarment to fight the waste and abuse of bad actors and maintain the public’s trust in our system.”
Continue investing in the acquisition workforce, including better training. “I will work closely with agency chief acquisition officers and senior procurement executives and our federal training institutions to identify training needs and make sure we are making appropriate training investment in all of our acquisition professionals,” he said. “This includes not just essential contracting officers, but also contracting officer representatives, who are responsible for contract management, and program and project managers, who are instrumental in acquisition planning and the development of contract requirements.”
In answers to his pre-hearing questions, Jordan also offered more insights into his priorities. When asked about the acquisition workforce, he said he would create service-level agreements between the General Services Administration, the Federal Acquisition Institute and OFPP to establish roles and responsibilities. He also would work with FAI to share training programs across government. Currently, FAI is surveying agencies about their acquisition training programs.
When it comes to the blended workforce, Jordan said the departments of Defense and Homeland Security also have developed guidance to measure the cost of contractor performance as compared to federal employee costs to determine who makes the most sense.
Jordan said he would work with DoD and DHS on their findings, and they would influence potential governmentwide guidance.
Backing off on executive compensation cap
During the hearing, Jordan also broke a bit from the administration’s call to cap contractor executive compensation at $200,000. In January, the White House asked Congress to pass a bill limiting how much money agencies should reimburse vendors for in paying their top executives. Statute recently required OFPP to raise the limit to $763,000.
Jordan said $200,000 may be a bit low for some specialty areas such as cybersecurity, but $763,000 is way too high. He and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the committee, agreed that OFPP and Congress should consider a lower cap but include a waiver process for highly technical areas.
Lieberman also asked Jordan more about suspension and debarment. The senator said the rules must be enforced or it doesn’t deter the bad actors.
Jordan said the use of past performance information is critical to identifying bad actors.
“This is an area when I talked about of training that I think we specifically need to push,” he said. “We need to make sure contracting officers understand their duties at the end of a contract to enter in past performance with fair, accurate and honest evaluations. And then with pre-award, we have to make sure contracting officers are going to that system and looking at potential awardees and make sure they don’t have any red flags or looking for really good contractors to award them for really great past performance.”
Database of MACs coming
Collins wanted to know how Jordan will deal with the proliferation of multiple award contracts (MACs).
Jordan said too often agencies forget that MACs and governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) are suppose to make things easier and reduce duplication. He said, in the end, they are increasing duplication.
OFPP required agencies to develop business cases for new multiple award contracts after Jan. 1. So far, fewer than 10 have been posted on the internal OMB MAX site.
“I would take that business case process very seriously and inventory the interagency contracts across the government and hopefully post those in a place so that contracting officers and agencies can very quickly and easily see there’s a vehicle that suits their needs, and they don’t have to go through the process and set up a new one,” he said. “That will free up their time to focus on the increasingly complex requirements for other contracts.”
Collins also recommended audits or spot inspections of business cases and multiple-award contracts to make sure they are not duplicative.
Jordan said he also would use the AcqStat sessions to discuss the business cases.
Lieberman said if all goes as expected the committee will approve Jordan’s nomination as early as next week, and send it to the full Senate for a vote.
There is no word on when the full Senate would take up his nomination.